MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Hillsides helps children cope with family trauma


West / California 103 Views

It started with an orphanage in 1913.

Evelyn Wile, a young deaconess of the Episcopal Church, opened a home for neglected and abandoned children in Highland Park. But she dreamed of one day moving them to a place that had plenty of open air for them to run around in.

A few years later, in 1918, she did. She moved the children into cottages on a 17-acre property in Pasadena. One hundred years later, that land is still used by Hillsides, the nonprofit that evolved from the Highland Park home whose mission still is to heal and strengthen children and families’ lives from trauma.

What started as an orphanage eventually evolved into a child welfare and behavioral agency, said Joseph M. Costa, Hillsides’ president and chief executive officer.

“We provide field-based mental health services in schools and in homes, helping families and children cope with traumas,” Costa said.

Its Hillsides Residential Treatment Services, located in Pasadena, is a campus that grew from two cottages to five, and includes a library, a swimming pool, a nursing office, a playground and an arts and recreation center.

Joe Costa

It’s a place that provides a safe and stable environment for children who have been separated from their families, Costa said.

“Often, there’s been evidence of neglect or abuse [in children], but in most instances, there’s something creating instability in the family so there’s a need to provide intervention, usually some counseling or group work. If needed, we put them in touch with a psychiatrist,” he said.

Through intensive services, the goal is to shorten the child’s time in the program by stabilizing and returning them to their families.

The affiliated Hillsides Education Center is a day and therapeutic residential school for kindergarten to 12th grade students with learning, social-emotional or behavioral challenges.

With personalized attention and small classes, and a combination of clinical and academic support, children are given the tools to succeed inside and outside of school.

For former foster youth, the Youth Moving On program offers affordable housing options and support services to prevent them from falling into homelessness as they transition out of the foster system.

With counseling, job and financial training, foster youth receive resources to help them find successful careers and become independent adults, Costa said.

Its work, however, doesn’t end there. Hillsides’ Family Resource Centers provides parenting classes and in-home counseling to families in L.A. County who are unable to access their support centers. Often, professionals get involved before children are taken from their families by offering counseling and creating a safe environment for the child.

With more than 100 years under its belt, Costa envisions a future for Hillsides that remains simple: to continue fulfilling its mission of helping the individuals they work with heal, grow and thrive. And it hopes to reach more than the 14,000 individuals it currently serves annually.

“Our future, more and more, is about reunifying families, helping those we serve walk away from our care with a real sense of stability and an opportunity to have a productive future,” he said.


CEO & President: Joseph M. Costa

Years in operation: 105

Number of employees: 540

Annual budget: $47 million

Location: 815 Colorado Blvd. Suite 300, Los Angeles 90041